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Chair of House Ways & Means visits area

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD It was "show and tell" with a serious purpose.

State Representative Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) was the guide on Friday for Representative Robert DeLeo, the chair of the House's Ways and Means Committee, for a whirlwind tour of western Massachusetts.

DeLeo, speaking at one of his stops, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), De said since the new state budget is complete, he wanted to go around the Commonwealth and speak to people about their concerns in their region. DeLeo, who was appointed to his chairmanship in February,

"I'm here to listen, I'm here to exchange some ideas," he said at a press conference.

Earlier in the day, DeLeo and Petrolati met with University of Massachusetts at Amherst Chancellor Joseph Lombardi about that institution's needs. At STCC, DeLeo was given a tour of the campus including Building 19 the historic horse stable that STCC President Ira Rubenzahl would like to see renovated into a campus center. Twenty-five million dollars are needed for the project.

Following the tour at STCC, DeLeo was scheduled to meet with city officials about $5 million sought for structural repairs to the city's Municipal Complex. He was then to meet with officials from Bay State Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center about health care concerns. His last stop was the Big E.

At STCC, State Representatives Cheryl Rivera, Benjamin Swan and James Welch joined DeLeo. Rivera is also seeking $500,000 for renovation of the former Bing Theater into a multipurpose arts center.

DeLeo said he learned that day of the important role that higher education plays in western Massachusetts, and that the colleges here are economic engines.

DeLeo said members of the Legislature are aware of Springfield's financial plight and he praised the diligence of the Springfield area delegation in communicating the city's needs.